Interview with Stuart Moore and Bruce Zick of MANDALA!

“This isn’t a comic…it is a trojan horse to awaken a critical mass, a movement, to hijack the media  machine and take down the control GRID. It is not a comic, but a rabbit hole, a pathway to wake up from this GRID that is taking over our minds. The next matrix, but this is for real.  It was created by Thirteen real people, real life heroes, who are out to change the world. Yet they remain anonymous, and have shared thier story, ideas and adventure with a group of creative people to get the message out.”

What is the MANDALA?  And, what role do Stuart Moore and Bruce Zick have in bringing the message of the Thirteen to us?  We interviewed the writer and artist for MANDALA, due to arrive at your comic shop on May 14th, to find out more…and found that they stayed very much in character as to the “true creators” of this very interesting graphic novel.

TMSTASH: This is a very interesting book.  You’ve created a very strange manifesto to make people wake up to the “fact” that we’re all being controlled. And, it’s an amalgam of so many things.  We’ve got almost every religion represented because in this tale all the gods are real.  You’ve got a vast conspiracy that’s been going on for years, and I loved how you had names like Tesla, Nietzsche, and Stephen Hawking thrown into the middle of it.

MOORE: That was all fun.  (MANDALA was) actually created by a shadowy cabal called the Thirteen.  They brought us in to flesh it out.  The funny thing is, when we all talk about this book we describe it very differently.  Kevin (J. Foxe, co-creator of “The Blair Witch Project) focuses a lot on the conspiracy aspect of it and the consciousness raising.  For me, I was largely concerned with the main character, Michael Morningstar, making sure that his story works, his journey works.  While he has to travel across time to save the universe and set things right, his dilemma is what you’re focused on and I think that grounds the story.  I think that brings it down to earth.  It’s not just a million gods flying around, although that’s half the fun of it.

ZICK: Its also a love story.

TMSTASH: There is also a love story in the middle of this, in fact there is a little bit of everything here.  If you’re a fan of the Matrix there’s certainly the great conspiracy, although this is a very different story.  There’s a love interest in the story, and while I’m not sure calling it a multiverse is accurate there are certainly multiple parallel timelines going on in the book. 

MOORE: Part of the idea is that as we open the story humanity has been conquered by snake invaders from another dimension.  But, that’s only one possible timeline in existence for humanity, and Michael’s quest is to sort of double back and sideways through time and prevent that from happening.  And really, to prevent humanity from giving in to its own worst impulses and allowing this to happen, because that’s really how it went down.  In the process he gets lost. He winds up homeless and amnesiac on the streets of New York City, but even then he gravitates toward people who he thinks can help him, and instinctively knows his mission.  And, there’s a lot to his past that even he doesn’t know.

TMSTASH:  The Thirteen, in terms of character design, seemed to take advantage of the fact that all the gods are real in your story.  It’s obvious that there are a lot of religious designs thrown into the book, particularly into the Thirteen.

ZICK:  I think that’s what attracted me to the story.  I’ve always loved mythologies and on some level I always fantasized about bringing them together.  And, when the Thirteen spoke to me about doing this book, I just went, wow.  This really puts everybody into one big pool, into one big reality.  We’ve all read Joseph Campbell and we know that different cultures are essentially telling the same stories but with different heroes.  This had a gestalt that appealed to me, that I thought was exciting.

MOORE:  I liked a lot of the cultural aspects.  I was specifically drawn to the Native American aspect of it, the opportunity to handle all that and make sure it was done sensitively and right, which was important to everyone on the team.  That allowed for a lot of nice subjects and a lot of cultural commentary.

TMSTASH: I really liked the character Charlie Many Colors, who was a real treat to read.

MOORE:  Charlie Many Colors serves as advisor and mentor to Michael Morningstar, the main character, and who is basically a wise old Hopi Indian but who is really an irreverent smartass.  Charlie knows a lot.  Charlie probably doesn’t know as much as he claims he does, but he knows a lot and knows enough not to take the world too seriously.  He’s a really fun character to write, because not only can you fill in a lot of information in the story through his dialogue, but he gets the best lines.  (to ZICK) Was he fun to draw?

ZICK: He was great because first of all he has a great face that every artist would love to do.  The more unusual the features, the easier it is to draw.   There’s nothing worse than trying to draw a normal person and make it look right.  But an exaggerated, comedic person is a dream come true.  His lines just were in line so much with my humor that you could hang your hat on it pretty easily.  In a lot of ways, he’s the voice of the story.

TMSTASH: How did you come together on this project, other than being sought out by the Thirteen?

MOORE:  We were sought out differently by the Thirteen.  In my case, they knew I was working on a comic called THE 99, which is a multicultural superhero comic that ended recently.  What they didn’t know was that I had been the editor of THE INVISIBLES, which was one of their favorite comics ever at DC/Vertigo, so that kind of cinched the deal.  (to ZICK) And, I think you were on the project before I was.

ZICK: The Thirteen first approached me to do visual development for a movie version of the story, concept art and designs.  Some of the Thirteen are looking into games, others into the Facebook application, others into the graphic novel, so they’re all over the place.

MOORE: One thing I want to stress is that this is not a film pitch that became a comic, this is an original comic that was cooked up especially for the medium.  It’s related to all the other projects that they have, but it is very much its own story.  It will form part of an interlocking mosaic with anything else that winds up coming out, including the film, but it’s very much its own story, it was a comic from the very start.

TMSTASH: You’ve done a lot of cross promotion all over social media.  You have the website https://www.enterthemandala.com/, you have the Facebook page, you seem to be trying to get people much more involved than just reading the book.  How does all that come together?

MOORE: It came together beautifully at the New York Comic Con last October.  We had a giant canvas dome set up in the booth that people could come into and learn all about the background of the whole thing through various video displays and lectures.  And, people loved it, like it was really something.  It was busy constantly.  We and the team we work with are always trying different things, we’re trying to get attention in slightly different ways.

ZICK: I think that it’s the desire to not have a book that you just read and then you put down, or stick it on a bookshelf and then that’s your whole experience.  I think the book is kind of put into a much larger experience that you can stay involved with and have other outlets to express yourself, and get into a community of other people who are interested in similar things.  I think that’s kind of special about it.  The book is only the beginning.  There will be more books that will continue the story, but I think they all feed off each other in a nice synergy.

TMSTASH:  I think in the 1960’s they would have called this an attempt to create a “happening”.

MOORE: I like that.

TMSTASH: This book does have a very nice wrap up that we of course won’t spoil here, but there are some threads left that can be picked up for very interesting future books.

MOORE:  We’re working on future stories already.  I can’t talk about it too much without ruining the ending of the graphic novel, but as you say it spins out in various directions.  Also, by the very nature of the fact that the main character is recruiting his own version of the Thirteen, sort of spiritual warriors who will help him with the extension of humanity, it means we have a lot of characters.  We have a lot of people to play with, so there are a lot of opportunities, a lot of ways to make that work.

TMSTASH: What other projects do each of you have on the back burner when you’re not working with the Thirteen?  I know Stuart is working on EGOS, which I’ve really enjoyed reading. 

MOORE: Thank you.  EGOS is published by Image, and we’re just wrapping the first trade paperback and working on the second cycle of stories right now.  I’m also working on a project for Disney called ZODIAC, created by Stan Lee with beautiful art by Andie Tong.  That will be a series of young reader novels, out starting the beginning of next year.  But there’s a teaser website for that, http://disneyzodiac.com/.

ZICK: I just had a huge book with Dark Horse come out called THE ATOMIC LEGION (Editor’s Note: Just out April 30th at your LCS in Hardcover).  It’s been years and years in the making, and it’s an entirely different story than MANDALA.  It’s very much a family, type of fun adventure book.  And  then I’m working on bringing back THE ZONE CONTINUUM, which I did years ago as a comic book series. I’ve been wanting to revisit that for a long time.

TMSTASH: What else can you tell us about MANDALA that the Thirteen will allow you to say?

MOORE: (Laughter) What I keep trying to tell people about it is that it’s a giant scale project that takes in a lot of different genres and timelines, but at the core it is the story of this one guy.  If we do our job right, it shouldn’t be overwhelming, it should be fun with a lot of layers that you can immerse yourself in if you want, but it should also be a good, fun read and I hope people give it a chance on that level as well.

ZICK: I hope you pick up this book and enjoy it for what it is.  And then, if you‘re stimulated by other aspects of it, you can peel the layers of the onion apart.  Or, if not you can just go wow, I can’t wait for the next book.

TMSTASH: I certainly enjoyed the story – for our followers, be sure to check out MANDALA, due at your local comics shops on Wednesday.  Thanks to Stuart Moore and Bruce Zick for their time. And…check out some of the fantastic artwork from MANDALA (just click on a thumbnail to launch the preview pages viewer):

Ed is a long-time comics collector, going back to the days when comics were only 12 cents. He reviews DC titles and a variety of Indie publishers here at TMStash.

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